By on February 13, 2017

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At least 20 Fiat and Alfa Romeo dealers in California have filed protests against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles after the manufacturer altered franchise agreements last December. Dealers objected to the changes, claiming it placed the struggling brands at a further disadvantage.

While the grievances vary between dealers, the protests revolve around a few key issues. FCA’s obligation to provide vehicles to the franchisees, the legal standard dealers must meet to sell those units, alterations to the definition of parts or accessories and how that might enable third-party distributors, and the constantly changing language surrounding dealer responsibilities were all common themes among the filed complaints. 

“At this point, the new agreement is going to put additional burdens and additional risks on the dealer,” Gavin Hughes, a Californian attorney filing many of the complaints, told Automotive News. “It’s unreasonable for the manufacturer to unilaterally be able to change the terms of a contract.”

One of the oddest modifications to the franchise agreement is FCA’s almost threatening assertion that the distribution of its products are under “its sole discretion” — a statement that includes “persons who are not authorized dealers” of Fiat or Alfa Romeo vehicles. There are also several bizarre mentions that dealerships are required to “energetically, actively, aggressively and effectively” showcase, advocate, lease, and its product — as if that wasn’t their goal all along.

Dealers have also been issued manuals, maintained entirely by FCA, that establish mandatory guidelines for everything from training requirements and networking capital to facility standards and day-to-day dealer operations. According to Hughes, these manuals can be updated and modified without notice or dealer input.

“This is shifting the burden away from FCA and to the dealers to be up-to-date on any changes that may be posted,” he said. “Most dealer concerns are that they’re going to start posting changes whenever they like.”

“By filing a protest, the dealers are protecting their rights. If you don’t file, then you don’t have a say in what happens,” Hughes added.

The complaints, filed in December and January, will have to be reviewed by the New Motor Vehicle Board so it can decide whether to deal with the cases as a single unit or hold individual hearings. It is unknown how many Fiat or Alfa Romeo franchisees are protesting outside of the state of California.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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28 Comments on “Alfa Romeo and Fiat Dealers are Airing Grievances and Protesting the Company...”

  • avatar

    I saw a Giulia on the road for the first time this morning. It is a sharp car.

  • avatar

    Just send in the Jesuits, Sergio. They’ll ensure a proper handling of the Host.

  • avatar

    Big Serge turning screws on the US dealers?
    Somehow this is not surprising at all.

  • avatar

    I called an Alfa dealer in Raleigh looking for parts and labor support for my 164S. They said they do not support any vehicles older than 2012. So still abandoned.

  • avatar

    Burning the dealers at the stake doesn’t seem like a good way to position the company for sale, er, I mean, partnership.

    • 0 avatar

      This is the same guy who called his design team “dummies” for not putting enough rear headroom in the 200. He is just here for the golden parachute; he literally loathes all FCA employees.

      • 0 avatar

        I doubt that. To loathe is to engage in active hatred. I don’t think Sergio cares about FCA or its employees one way or the other. His loyalty is dedicated entirely to the Agnelli family, who will reward him handsomely for extricating a huge chunk of the family fortune from the capital intensive, low margin auto business. They’ll make up the reward money when they re-invest the $ billions in banking, where the real money is.

      • 0 avatar

        …and Chrysler, and Chrysler history, but he LOVES the money they generate!

        His “succession plan” is simpler than Mulally’s was. Destroy the brands (Dodge, Dodge Truck, & Chrysler) then sell off what he can for whatever and walk away a billionaire in Italy. I’m guessing Jeeps to China, Pacificas to India, and Rams to the Koreans. IF there are any cars left, those go to Mexico or Brazil. 2019 will tell!

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    The indisputable wisdom of a classic film seems fitting here…

    “They bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say… let ’em crash!”

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Not that I’m a huge proponent of the dealership empire or anything, but FCA should realize that the dealerships are its customers, and maybe treat them better. Relationships seem to be pretty sour across the board in terms of FCA and its brands’ respective dealerships.

    • 0 avatar

      After the way I’ve seen FCA dealerships treat their customers AND FCA itself, I’m sure FCA wishes it could just pull a lot of licenses. But if they do, then they open themselves to a lot of lawsuits that would cost more than it’s worth to fight.

  • avatar

    A dealer here in Denver just got done spending big money on a new Alfa/Fiat/Maserati facility. The place is first class. And I’m sure they don’t appreciate this kind of stuff.

    FCA is becoming Bizarro World. Let’s hope Sergio finds someone to unload this off to before gas goes up again.

  • avatar

    “Dealers have also been issued manuals”

    “We can’t sell manuals!”

    Seriously though, while they’re at it, Fiat dealers should be protesting the fact they’re not getting a pickup.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    The first part of Festivus is the airing of grievances. Next comes feats of strength between Sergio and a tag team of aggrieved FCA dealers.

  • avatar

    As much as I like the Giulia Quaudrafoglio, and I like it a lot, it’s the dealership and service support I am leery about that would steer me away from this car. If FCA can’t ensure stability of its own dealership network then, what assurance do I have that my car will have proper service and warranty work if the time comes. Only way to drive this car would be to lease it, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris FOM

      Exactly this. I’m interested in getting something at the M3/C63/Giulia QV level when I replace my 335 in a couple years. The Giulia gets an emotional response out of me that none of the others approach, but I have two big concerns. First, the easiest way to make a German car seem reliable is to compare it to an Italian car. Second is the trajectory of FCA and concerns over their dealer network/support. If I’m spending that kind of money on a car I want some peace of mind that I won’t be left orphaned.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve personally watched a dealership attempt to screw FCA over on a warranty repair. I’m sure FCA would like to divest itself of many dealerships that are too abusive of both their customers and their OEM.

  • avatar

    My last experience with FCA was the promaster van, designed in italy and built in mexico. Based upon the parts and service problems i had with this van, even though it had a caravan power train, i would never buy another FCA. And Alfa, etc will surely be worse when it comes to parts service and i bet reliability is the worst of any car sold in North america. SO IMO this new division is ‘dead man walking’ and will lose much money and disappoint many customer. FCA/Sergio have lost touch with reality and the american consumer. They deserve the problems that they are creating for themselves.
    Sergio is either an idiot or a world class con man. He even swindled GM and that idiot Wagoner out of what..over a billion dollars. So at least Sergio is smarter than Wagoner…Hard to believe the head of GM could be conned by Sergio. Go figure!!

  • avatar

    Anyone happen to think FCA may be trying to drive certain disreputable franchises away by making it too troublesome to keep their licenses?

  • avatar

    what’s the “New Motor Vehicle Board”?
    edit: googled it for myself.

  • avatar

    Is it me, or does this sound like FCA trying to achieve the reality of doing business like Tesla, if not the legal and regulatory fact of same?

  • avatar

    Man, this whole dealership model feels so last century to me.

    I mesn, I get it – this is how we buy lots of things. *most* people don’t go to their local GE store to buy a dishwasher, say, they go to their local Best Buy or whatever to do it, where they get bugged by comissioned sales peeps for add-on warranties and/or to be upsold to whatever model they don’t really need but the store has an excess of stock in.

    But, who *likes* this model? We learned this year that an ever-increasing number of shoppers are choosing online purchases every year. They’re still buying these appliances from “dealers”, but more often than not they’re online, you click a few buttons and your appliance arrives a few days later. You don’t like it? They come pick it back up. You choose about installation support or extended warranties on your terms, on the site. And increasingly, manufactuerers are opening their own online presence for this sort of thing, too.

    Cars aren’t dishwashers, sure. But holy crap the fact that this model is *forced* on the auto business as pretty much the only option is nutso and feels like piano players trying to keep the phonograph at bay or something.

    And how much money is siphoned out of the system by these vast networks? Man.

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